I spoke earlier with a friend of mine. They have a daughter, around 20 or so, who’s led a pretty rotten life. She’s had several brushes with the law, repeated drug problems (including several stints in rehab), and has a baby by her ex-pusher (I’m sorry, ex-boyfriend). She’s in rehab again, and doing fine — but she’s done fine in them before.
They were all excited, though. The daughter had just been accepted into a special college program for “recovering addicts.” All her costs will be covered, and in two years she’ll have an Associate’s degree in treating addiction.
I was happy for them, too — at first. But then I started feeling annoyed.
For years, this kid has screwed up and lived an incredibly selfish, self-centered, and self-destructive life. And while she has paid the price for it, a good chunk of that check has been paid by others (in emotional, financial, and legal ways) as well.
And what’s the consequence for this? A free ride in college.
This reminds me of a recent plan announced by Massachusetts’ governor, Mitt Romney. They are planning in introducing “sobriety schools.” These schools will be specifically geared towards students recovering from addictions, in response to the statistic that 90% of high schoolers who pass a recovery program relapse when they return to school. So the new idea is to set aside an entire school just for these kids, where they can have a better chance of escaping the tendrils of their addictions.
Again, it’s sympathy for those who have made bad decisions, and helping them find their way again.
But what occurred to me was that these actions, while highly admirable, have price tags. And such resources are finite.
So while we’re giving scholarships and making special schools for kids who have already demonstrated their ability to make bad decisions and screw up their lives, we’re not doing such things for kids who haven’t screwed up. Those kids that have lived by the straight and narrow, followed the rules, and busted their asses to excel.
Whenever it’s budget time at the schools, it seems that one of the first victims is always the “gifted and talented” programs. Those that can do wonders are cut loose, left to find their own way past mediocrity. Meanwhile, even talking about curtailing the programs for the underachievers, the addicts, the timewasters brings about howls of protest and threats of lawsuits.
And so while I’m happy for my friends and their daughter, I have to wonder about that nameless, faceless kid who’s not getting her slot in college — the kid who managed to say “no” to drugs, to crime, to out-of-wedlock children, who could use a reward for their good behavior, who could use a sign that playing by the rules and doing what’s right has its rewards — and has to wonder if using heroin for just a little while might have been a better career move than studying those extra hours.